AD Classics: Stephanuskirche / Alvar Aalto

Stephanuskirche, translated to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Stephen, was designed by Alvar Aalto and completed in 1968. It is located in Wolfsburg, Germany, the same town that Aalto’s Wolfsburg Cultural Center was built. Stephanuskirche is among the prominent architectural testimonies of International Modernism in Germany.

AD Classics: Stephanuskirche / Alvar Aalto - Bench, Windows
© Samuel Ludwig

Stephanuskirche is considered a modern religious building and is a return to the late work of Aalto's functionalism of the 1930s. It is located on a slight hill in the middle of the urban life of Wolfsburg. The side of the building that faces the shopping center has a facade clad in Carrara marble and is completely windowless, having a symbolic meaning as it opposes the bustle of the mall beyond it.

On the east side, a freestanding bell tower rests on whitewashed concrete columns.  Aalto originally planned for twelve columns, but only nine were constructed. The back is composed of various sized cubes that are asymmetrically staggered up the hill. These cubes make up the community center and include offices, a library, club room, kitchen, and common rooms. Stephanuskirche does not compete with the high-rises in terms of size, but it is still a distinct urban landmark due to its façade treatment.

AD Classics: Stephanuskirche / Alvar Aalto - Lighting, Chair, Windows
© Samuel Ludwig

The simple white-painted interior contains 250 individual wooden chairs and can hold up to 600 visitors. The high ceiling is covered in unique round, wooden sound reflectors. The altar made of Carrara marble rests at the north end of the trapezoidal plan.

Aalto has a great history of designing religious architecture.  He has designed 37 religious structures, 22 churches, 4 designs for cemetaries and chapels, and even a mosque. Stephanuskirche reveals Aalto's skills in church design and has characteristics of his globally recognized standardization of international modernism. 

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Cite: Lisa Wronski. "AD Classics: Stephanuskirche / Alvar Aalto" 14 May 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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